Gophers' Trip to Louisiana: The Odyssey
March 7, 2014
Since there are no longer any Chanticleer Classic games today, we thought this little recap of our last road trip’s adventures would be a good way to fill the time before Saturday’s games. It was a memorable journey, from a flight cancelation, to commandeering a New York City bus, to an extended stay in Dallas.
Thursday: Excited to travel to weather in the 60- and 70-degree range, we boarded our plane to start the journey to Ruston, La., to play Louisiana Tech. We were scheduled to fly into Dallas and bus from there to Ruston, about four hours away. Soon after boarding, we learned there was a mechanical issue. After several status updates and about two hours on the tarmac, we got the news that our flight had to be canceled because the problem was not an easy fix.
We filed off the plane and back into the terminal. We ended up eating dinner at the Mall of America and staying in a nearby hotel so we would be on hand if an early flight was available. We went to bed with instructions to be in the lobby at 7 a.m.
Friday: We went downstairs to the lobby to board our bus. Assistant head coach Rob Fornasiere asked, “Ever been to New York City?” That’s when we found out that the plane wasn’t fixed. We had a find a creative way to get to Dallas, and that was through LaGuardia Airport in New York City.
Back to the airport we went. The team was split into two different groups that would meet up in New York to take one flight to Dallas. One group needed to exchange boarding passes for a different airline for the trip to New York. That took a while. As we waited and watched the security line get longer and longer, we weren’t sure we were going to make it. But luckily, we got bumped up toward the front of the line. Our plane was slightly delayed, so we made it out of MSP.
The left side of the plane got a nice view of the Statue of Liberty and the NYC skyline as we landed. We got off the plane having little idea of where to go in LaGuardia. We were also running short on time, as our layover wasn’t very long and we were late getting out of MSP. We asked for directions, and were told to go outside to get to our gate.
Well, of course that meant we had to go through security again. Now we were outside, not really sure how to get to our gate and cutting it close on time. We also didn’t know if there was a shuttle coming soon that could bring us there.
Luckily, Coach Fornasiere took some initiative and flagged down a city bus. The driver was understanding of our predicament, and told us to hop on. We all pooled some cash to give him, thanked him and hustled off the bus to find our gate. It’s a good thing the security lines were short, because we were going through them as boarding was starting.
Reunited, the whole travel party safely made it to Dallas. We had to laugh a little when a flight attendant told us we arrived “20 minutes early.” It was about 24 hours after we were originally supposed to land. We got our luggage and started loading the bus outside of baggage claim. But that would’ve been too easy. That bus turned out to be there for the University of Central Florida basketball team.
Once the correct bus arrived, the drive to Ruston took around four hours. Movies and homework passed the time. It was a relief to get to our hotel and see a “Welcome to Ruston” sign.
Saturday: The Gophers played a doubleheader, winning the first in 10 innings and losing the second. Nothing too strange happened that day.
Sunday: We capped off the series with a win on a slightly rainy day. The rain didn’t cause any game delays. But we ran into a real precipitation problem on our bus back to Dallas. As we headed west, a sleet storm started. The roads turned icy and dangerous. We saw cars in the ditch as we crawled along. Our bus driver did a great job keeping us safe.
Unfortunately, the drive ended up taking seven hours instead of four. There was no way we could make our flight. By the time we arrived in Dallas, we already had hotel reservations to stay there. Because so many flights had been canceled due to weather, we were not going to be able to get out until Tuesday.
Monday: The guys got in some workouts at the hotel, did homework and had some free time.
Tuesday: A small group from our travel party went to the airport early. Naturally, that flight had a 30-minute delay. The rest of us took two hotel shuttles, an SUV and a pickup truck of luggage to the airport for a later flight. No delays. We made it back to campus before 4 p.m.
It was a long trip with delays and detours, but we got there and back safely and gained two wins--and a good story to tell.